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EPA wants upstream easement in Dunn Co. project

MANNING -- Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson will seek one additional easement for its restoration project along the Little Knife River in Dunn County.

Craig Kubas with Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, a North Dakota engineering firm, told the County Commission during its meeting Tuesday at the Dunn County Courthouse in Manning that the landowner downstream of the project has already approved the easement.

But the Environmental Protection Agency would like to see the same easement granted from the property owner that lives upstream, Kubas said.

"They say that, basically, for five years the county and whoever they assign as their agent to go and inspect this will have access to the property," Kubas said. "It's just a rectangular piece of ground. We're not doing any channel work there. All we're doing is seeding what's up there, but (the EPA) wants to know that if something happens upstream that they have and the county has the access to go up there and fix anything that may need fixed."

Commissioner Bob Kleeman asked how the construction would impact the water flow of the river.

Kubas explained that rocks would be added to the waterway during the project, but that the channel alignment of the river would not be altered as part of the project, along with the addition of shrubs and plants along the banks of the river.

The commissioners and County Road Superintendent Mike Zimmerman agreed to talk to the landowner and secure temporary easements onto their properties to allow for the construction and inspection of the project for a few years after it has been completed.

Kubas said the easements were the last requirement of the EPA. The project, estimated to cost around $300,000 and $400,000, should be ready to bid in March. The commissioners asked that the construction work not begin until a start date has been worked out with nearby landowners who might be impacted by the restoration.

"It is unique work on this project and it's going to be labor-intensive," Kubas said. "They want to build slopes and hand plant the shrubs on the banks, so it will be time-consuming but not a lot of material, as far as dirt will be used. We don't do a lot of projects like this. Stream restoration just isn't a big North Dakota thing, but it does happen more in Montana."

Because the stream restoration is more common west of the state line, Kubas said he expects that it will attract companies that are based in the Rocky Mountains to bid on the project.

Tim Kelly with KLJ said there is a list of firms in Montana that are qualified for this type of work.

"It's a very specialty-type work, and I think some contractors out there that have done this work will be interested in this project," he said.